With Clint Capela the heir-apparent at center for the Hawks, the “Core Five” nickname for the group of players they’re rebuilding around might have to change to “Core Six.”
When healthy, Capela figures to take on a crucial role for the Hawks, providing rebounding ability, a defensive presence at the rim and veteran experience to the exceptionally young team. It’ll be a while before Capela makes his debut, since a stubborn right heel injury has sidelined him since December, when he was still with the Rockets, and the Hawks (20-47) are one of eight teams excluded from the NBA’s presumptive plans to restart the season in Orlando.
But, nearly seven months after he started missing games due to injury in Houston, Capela finally feels like his heel has healed.
“Way, way, way better,” Capela said on how he’s feeling. “I’ve been taking care of it all this time. Now, I really feel that my heel has really healed. So it doesn’t bother me when I walk around with it or when I work out, so far. I just can’t wait to go out there and play.”
Capela added that he couldn’t be sure if it was 100% yet, as he’s not playing full-on, five-on-five basketball at the moment. But, it’s a great sign that he’s essentially pain-free. Before the season was suspended due to coronavirus March 11, it didn’t seem likely Capela would see the court for the remainder of the Hawks’ season (they had 15 games to go), but he said he felt he could play if they had been allowed to restart their season in July. Of course, Chelsea Lane, vice president of athletic performance and sports medicine, would have to sign off on that, and Capela hasn’t been officially evaluated by her since the season’s suspension, per NBA social distancing guidelines in practice facilities.
The Hawks acquired Capela in a four-team trade deadline deal, and officially listed his injury as plantar fasciitis and a right calcaneus contusion.
After going so long without playing a game, Capela is itching to get back on a basketball court (and dominate in the paint).
“I’m really excited to just show my presence,” Capela said. “Doesn’t matter how it is, just excited to show my presence and just show that I’m here and show that I will be a big part of the team.”
The eight teams who were more than six games out of playoff contention and know their season is over (Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Chicago, Charlotte, Minnesota, Golden State) are working together to present a proposal of offseason guidelines to the league, whether that involves scrimmages or loosened practice-facility restrictions.
Depending on what gets approved by the league and Players Association, Capela is looking forward to working out more with his teammates over the summer and getting more familiar with their games.
Having a longer offseason (the 2020-2021 season is tentatively scheduled to begin Dec. 1) could work to Capela’s benefit as he gets back to 100% and game shape, though he’s already had quite a while to rehab.
“I’ve already had plenty of time,” Capela said of taking the extended offseason to heal. “But definitely, it’s going to help me to go back to the team, have a lot of workouts with the guys, get together 5-on-5, get together for some 3-on-3, get to know each other better and it’ll definitely give me plenty of time to get ready for the next season.”
Capela is stepping into a much different situation with the Hawks than he experienced on a veteran-heavy, winning Rockets team. It’s one in which he’s instantly perceived as an “older” player and leader, even though he just recently turned 26, but he welcomes that responsibility.
One of the bigger questions when the Hawks acquired Capela was how he’d fit alongside John Collins, who can now slide back to his natural position at power forward. Their styles have overlap as rim-running bigs, though Collins showed an increased ability to stretch the floor and shoot 3’s this past season.
For his part, Capela thinks the two will be able to play harmoniously, and will have plenty of time to iron out any kinks.
“I think we’re both going to have to (be) complementary with each other,” Capela said. “I know that he can shoot the ball, so ... he shoots good with the ball in his hands, he can drive to the basket, and I think I can do some of it too, drive to the basket and stuff like that. We’re just going to have to play together and I think we’re good enough to figure it out together on the court. And we’re definitely going to have time to do it, with all this time.”
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